DUNEDIN, FLA. - For the Blue Jays to move forward this season, they need more than just an improvement in their starting pitching.
They also need three of their everyday players — Adam Lind, Kelly Johnson and Colby Rasmus — to kick it up a notch from last season.
Johnson, a second baseman, was acquired from Arizona last August and hit .270 (31-for-115) with three homers and nine RBIs. He also struck out 31 times. In 2010 with the D-Backs, Johnson set career highs with 26 homers, 71 RBIs while hitting .284.
Centre fielder Rasmus was like a deer in the headlights following his arrival from St. Louis in July, hitting just .173 with three homers.
And Lind became the Jays’ everyday first baseman, which resulted in lower back pain, a stint on the disabled list and a poor second half where he hit just .197 with a miserable OPS of .589.
“We don’t need them to have career years,” GM Alex Anthopoulos said. “We just need them to be solid, to be good. To be great, that’s even better for us.
“I don’t think it’s asking too much because they demand it of themselves. We don’t need them to have career years. But even if they are just average, we’re going to have a deep team.”
What’s the deal?
In the case of Blue Jays reliever Casey Janssen, it happens to be a two-year deal, one that will pay him $2 million in 2012 and $3.9 million the following year.
Multi-year deals are not the norm for the lot of relievers and because Janssen has one tucked in his pocket he has been taking a lot of good-natured guff from veteran reliever Jason Frasor.
The contract gives Janssen, 30, the first security he has known in his major-league career, even if it is for all of two years with a club option of $4 million for 2014.
Janssen no longer has to look over his shoulder this spring, but knows that with the security comes added responsibility.
“I thought about it a lot and it’s nice and it’s great but the minute you exhale (relax), someone’s crawling up your back,” Janssen said. “I don’t want to change anything from being successful. Last year. I had a good year, but I want to continue the same routine as last year.
“Do I know there is going to a certain salary next year? Yes. But other than that, I’d like to say I’m still the same person and have the same competitive goals for myself and for the team.”
FLIP-FLOP AT THE TOP
An item of note in Thursday’s 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies was the lineup posted by Blue Jays manager John Farrell.
For the second consecutive game, Farrell had second baseman Kelly Johnson bat leadoff with shortstop Yunel Escobar batting behind him. For most of the spring, Farrell has had Escobar lead off with the left-handed hitting Johnson batting second.
So, what’s with that?
“Just taking a look,” Farrell said. “Both have played at the top of the order for the vast majority of their careers and I just felt like Yunel (who bats right) has the ability to hit the hole over there (between first and second with a runner on first) a little bit more. Kelly’s (who bats left) is not a dead pull hitter as he’s going to use the whole field a little bit more.
“So, it’s just a couple of games look. I can’t say that that’s going to be reflective on opening day.”
But then again, it may.